Friday, December 12, 2014

Instagram: How I Hate Thee...or Love Thee?

I found someone who feels the exact same way as me. The person who knows me the best, my husband, can tell you how I feel about social media. I'm not sure if I verbally lay out my thoughts to him in a clear and concise manner, but my sometimes disinterest and my turn-up of the nose looks whenever Instagram is mentioned probably say a lot. This topic fascinates me: my like-hate relationship with Instagram. I could never put my finger on why until today. Before I share with you the post that made me say 'yes!', I'd like to share that I've taken steps to re-do my Instagram account. Even before I really understood why, I knew I had to stop following the people I know. So I went from following about 300 people down to 100 and back up to 150 or so. I stopped following husbands of girlfriends, I stopped following people I used to know, I stopped following people I see sometimes on a rare occasion. It wasn't easy. As I went from profile to profile, I paused to make sure I really wanted to do this. But you know what question popped in my head as I debated whether to unfollow someone? Will they get mad at me if I'm not tied in to their life? If someone gets pregnant or loses a family member or whatever, and they announce it on social media, will I be at fault for not knowing? And of course when I take a step back and look at that line of questioning, it is amazingly ABSURD. So I tapped the unfollow button...over 200 times.

My feed then got real stupid. Going back and forth between posts from the Jehovah's Witness instagram and Tracee Ellis Ross's Instagram... opening Instagram at all became a waste of time. When I first heard about Instagram, I was in love with it. An outlet to post photography and photography only?! Whaaaaat? A place where I can look at other people's photography, illustrations, thoughts and creative ideas and become inspired! Whaaaat? Reflecting on why I joined Instagram in the first place and not wanting my feed to be stupid, I did some research. The Huffington Post popped up in my search results. "Bored By Your Instagram Friends? Here are 28 Refreshing..." Bam. That's it right there. I read on. "The difficulty is in finding accounts that breathe some much-needed fresh air into..." Yes! "...list of accounts that embody everything that's right about Instagram..." Yes! That phrase resonated with me...'that embody everything that's right about Instagram'. They are so right because there is so much about Instagram that is just so wrong. As I perused the list of refreshing new profiles, my count of people I followed went back up. 50 new little interests. Illustrators, photographers, creative thinkers... Who knew that these people were buried in here among the mass of crap?

But this isn't even the article that inspired this post. One of my recent posts is about my mental and physical cleanse which included a shutdown of social media, so when I saw this written by a woman named Kate Arends... I left Social Media For A Week. This Is What Happened... I clicked immediately. It's quite a long article so for those who aren't interesting in reading the whole thing, let me copy and paste snippets and bold where I had my aha moments.

"I’ve often wondered about the affect technology has on our moods and sense of well-being. We’re social creatures by nature with a thirst for information. Today, there’s no shortage of content to consume, and there’s more people to share it with than ever. Some could argue the digital age is what the industrial era was to the men who build America. Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg are the new Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan.  Technology is our new infrastructure."

"Then there’s mass media. And more specifically, mobile media. The newest trillion dollar industry is built to cater to a more efficient world, expanding seamlessly into the time and space where leisure once lived. Their products are designed to act as our fifth limb– to pull at our pleasure sensors– encouraging maximum usage and consumption of content. Delectable, juicy, uselessly tasty content. As a result, mass media filters into our lives through the devices we rely on to make a living.
That’s where it get complicated for me."

"The little experiment did shed light on my reliance on social media, and in many ways, my mood is just as affected by other distractions on my phone and computer. I’m feeling much better, but I’m still at risk of slipping to another depressive state. All that aside, the process ended up being surprisingly cyclical. I was reminded that my social media footprint was created to promote self-discovery, and that doesn’t have to change, because Wit & Delight existed before it’s content reached millions.  It’s a point of view and a filter; it’s my leisure, my creative laboratory, my outlet. Somehow along the way I forgot to take the time to savor and process these moments myself, and for my little family. Wit & Delight is a part of me– a real, live, human being. A real life that I live, and will continue to live, should I decide to part with social media for good."

Exactly! While Instagram has developed into a source of irritation to me, I first joined because it promoted self-discovery. Before people started following me, I posted. I could care less about likes. I did it for the art. And that, and whatever else I do should continue no matter if I'm on social media or not.

Reading Kate's article helped me. I'm glad I found her. I'm glad she was one of the 50 people who I decided to follow. My reinvention has already yielded results. I'm thinking more. I'm writing more. I'm inspired. Another reason why Kate's article helped me so much is because the only other person I have to get a relative sense of whether I'm crazy regarding my feelings for Instagram is my husband. And he LOVES Instagram. When I turn up my nose or make a comment about Instagram, he doesn't feel me. As a matter of fact, he loves Instagram for all the reasons why I hate it. So then...I start feeling like I'm the weird one. I kept fighting with myself, having conversations in my head like 'am I crazy? on a whole, doesn't Instagram cause more harm than good based on what it turned into? wouldn't the world be better if we didn't spend hours scrolling through our feeds and actually having conversation with the people to the right and left of us?' So Kate helped me. I'm not crazy. She's even connected social media to her depressive bouts and is asking questions like mine.

As I wrap up, I'll leave you with her thought provoking questions. Hopefully this helps you as much as it helped me in setting my own boundaries and coming to a healthy relationship with social media.

Plenty of people navigate the mobile media world with ease and grace. Plenty of people have unhealthy relationships with mass media and technology. The point of sharing my experiment is to discuss the link between social sharing and our mental well-being, and to raise questions about the relationship and reliance on our digital footprint. 
How real and impactful is an online persona? 
Does this mean it is essential to become more human in the digital world? 
If yes, how do we do it with authenticity, care, and purpose? 
Is curating a hyper-idealized, editorial version of yourself just another way of catfishing your followers? 
How do we be more human without disclosing too much of ourselves? 
Or, will be have to find new ways to cope with our connectedness in order to keep up with an increasingly digital environment?

Update: I just read some of the comments and look what I found! Ha! 

I read a quote on one of my new Instagram pages that mentioned how 'Me too' is one of the most comforting phrases to hear. So to this I say "Me TOO!"
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